A REVOLUTION that will bring the platinum mining industry to its knees and cripple SA’s economy is imminent, says Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
In the past several months, mining houses have threatened to shed thousands of jobs.
Speaking at the rally to commemorate the Marikana massacre in North West, Mathunjwa challenged Lonmin bosses present with his ultimatum.
Lonmin plans to retrench 12,500 mineworkers by 2020, while Impala Platinum recently announced it was planning to reduce its headcount by 13,000 in the next two years. Mathunjwa said Amcu would stage a year-long strike to render the mines defunct if they proceeded with the plans.
‘We will bring the platinum belt to its knees and nothing will move here… We don’t fear you. We are waiting for you. In 2014 we were not fully prepared but managed to transport all our members to their homes. ‘We will never fail, we paid school fees and bonds during a five-month strike. We’ll give you 12 months with these mines not working,’ he said.
But Lonmin CEO Ben Magara, who addressed the gathering before Mathunjwa, pleaded poverty, saying the company wanted to improve the lives of the mineworkers and the affected communities but there was no money. Magara said the company was ‘avoiding retrenchments’.
Amcu staged a five-month strike over wages in the platinum sector in 2014.
The echo of Mathunjwa’s war cries bounced off the rocks that flank the hill where the 34 Lonmin mineworkers were gunned down by the police six years ago. The long faces that had braved the scorching North West sun came alive as Mathunjwa stood up to speak.
The addresses on Thursday mirrored attitudes from six years ago when Mathunjwa told Lonmin that the workers would not get off the hill until the company had committed to increasing salaries to R12,500.
And just like back then, Lonmin, through Magara, said there was no money available, while warning workers about possible retrenchments. Just like the narrative from the bosses and the unions, little has changed in Marikana since the massacre. The same dusty gravel roads reach like weathered fingers into the nooks and crannies of the informal settlements.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa, just like his predecessor Jacob Zuma, was a no show in the area at the commemoration that remains a highly politicised platform. Opposition political parties expressed their outrage at the government’s failure to act on the Farlam commission of inquiry recommendations. The inquiry was set up to probe the Marikana massacre.
Ramaphosa will have no other chance to join the community when it remembers the 34 slain mineworkers until after the 2019 national elections. Speaking to Business Day on the sidelines of the commemoration, a young mineworker said it made no difference whether Ramaphosa came to Marikana as it would not be the ‘magic wand’ they needed to heal. The trauma of August 16 2012, when the world watched as wounded mineworkers lying in pools of blood gasped for breath and the dead lay still, haunts many workers and community members in the area.
• Government does not care about victims of Marikana, Bantu Holomisa says Cyril Ramaphosa is attending a Sadc meeting and did not attend the Marikana commemoration, despite saying earlier in 2018 that he intended to visit the site. UDM leader Bantu Holomisa says the government’s continued absence in Marikana as hundreds of people commemorate the sixth anniversary of the massacre shows it does not care about victims of the tragedy.
Speaking on Thursday as the commemoration rally organised by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) got under way, Holomisa said the least the government could do was check on the residents of Marikana and their living standards. The annual gathering is held in honour of the 34 Lonmin mine workers who were killed by police during violent protests for wages in 2012.
On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said he was attending a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) meeting and would not attend the event. This is despite Ramaphosa saying he intended to visit Marikana, after he took over as head of state.
Meanwhile, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the ANC-led government’s failure to act on recommendations made by the Farlam commission of inquiry has led the party to conclude the ANC was ‘complicit in the actions that took place here in Marikana’.
The government has been criticised for failing to ensure the prosecution of police officers responsible for the murders, including commanders who issued instructions for police to fire live ammunition at the protesters.
‘How long must we wait? … If the ANC is not willing to act we must conclude the ANC was complicit in the actions that took place here in Marikana. None of us ever thought the police could be used against our own people. But it seems it will happen again as the ANC has forgotten about the people of SA,’ Maimane said.
He also emphasised a call made by opposition political parties and civil society organisations that August 16 should be declared a public holiday to mark the significance of the tragedy. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has taken part in the commemorations over the years was notably not in attendance, while the rally attracted a low number of mine workers and Marikana community members when compared to past years.
• Civil society organisations have called for justice for the victims of Marikana on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the tragedy. There has been little progress in hauling to court those responsible for fatally shooting 34 miners in SA’s most violent post-apartheid incident. This is despite recommendations of the Farlam commission that set out processes to be followed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Members of the South African Police Service gunned down 34 striking Lonmin mineworkers in 2012 after weeks of violent protests that claimed the lives of 10 other people. The number could be higher. Ninety-four mineworkers were injured. The Institute for Security Studies said the police commanders who authorised the killings ‘should be a priority for prosecution by the incoming head of the NPA’.
The institution said in a statement issued on Wednesday that the police would be able to rid itself of the ‘deadly legacy’ of Marikana only by taking responsibility of the killings. Although the Independent Police Investigative Directorate has already identified police officers for prosecution for their role in the Marikana killings, the NPA is yet to act on the cases.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA’s director of litigation Nomzamo Zondo said: ‘The families of the dead miners and the wider SA public require at the very least that those accused of murder be put on trial. People need to be held accountable for shooting husbands, brothers, sons and fathers, and then lying about it’.
At a Marikana Memorial lecture organised by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) in Johannesburg on Wednesday, political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the massacre was a ‘democratic tragedy’. He said that there was no ‘diplomatic way’ of explaining the events that sent shockwaves across the world.
‘That day human rights were disrespected. The most fundamental rights being the right to life, the right to dignity and the right to withhold labour.… Until this day, nobody has been prosecuted, and SA is quiet. My biggest worry is that SA sees Marikana as an ordinary atrocity,’ he said.
The Bench Marks Foundation’s chairman Bishop Jo Seoka said the government’s settlement proposal of less than R100m made to families as compensation recently was a ‘rushed effort’ to secure a settlement before the sixth annual commemoration.
The families of the Marikana victims filed claims in August 2015 against the minister of police for compensation and a formal apology for the loss of their loved ones. However, six years later, the state was still in negotiations with the families and injured mineworkers, among others, over the settlements.
Advocate Dali Mpofu said during his brief speech at the Amcu memorial lecture that a report would be released on the offers government has made. He represents mineworkers who were injured during the massacre and those who were arrested in its aftermath.
‘The government has been torturing us, promising money and making all kinds of promises in the media. We’ve continuously asked them to speak directly to the families rather than scoring points in the public domain by promising millions to the families of the deceased workers,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the ANC called on its own members in government to move with ‘urgency’ in implementing the recommendations as directed by the Farlam commission, more so by addressing interventions aimed at ‘alleviating the plight of the affected families’. The party also said in a statement issued on Wednesday that mining companies should also proceed with speed to implement commitments made to improving conditions in affected communities. Amcu is expected to hold the annual Marikana commemoration rally near the site where the tragedy took place on Thursday.